Contributed by Sam Ese, Yenagoa
When the 2019 International Women’s Day conference commenced at the Ayallah Hotels in Yenagoa on Thursday, June 13, 2019, it was like any other such conference in the past as women, some sporting the latest designer clothes and hairdos arrived either singly or in groups.
The theme of this year’s event, “#BalanceforBetter” did not ring any bell either, but that did not last for long as the participants heard factually about the challenges confronting women in today’s global space and how to navigate past them.
Very often, women have blamed their woes on men, the society and laws and regulations that they feel are oppressive to them without realising the need to navigate out of the walls they built around themselves, but that was bound to change.
The arrangement of the hall with the soft Christian tunes forming a background noise gave the ambience of a religious setting and the fact that invitation was via radio announcement seemed quite ordinary.
A large flex told the audience that the event was sponsored by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) while the brochure herald the fact that the Bayelsa State event was facilitated by Father’s Heart Foundation, a non-governmental organisation.
The conference started quite informally as no high table was constituted and no formal welcome address was also delivered; it was just some pep talk before the introduction of the first topic of the day.
Although the welcome address in the brochure was not read, it gave background of the International Women’s Day and advanced reasons for this year’s theme, “BalanceforBetter” such as focus on innovative ways of achieving gender equality and women empowerment.
It particularly noted the issue of empowerment “in areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure” saying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “requires transformative shifts, integrated approaches and new solutions.
The ability to be innovative, it said, driven and productive should not be gender specific and that the theme, #BakanceforBetter is seeking greater inclusiveness and balanced work places for women all over the world.
At first, it looked like the speaker would have a hard time in trying to connect with the audience of about 200 women from all walks of life until Tobore Olumoye, a finance expert started unveiling practical issues that so many women were grappling with in the world today.
Speaking on the topic, Remaining Relevant, Olumoye taught the women on the meaning of relevance, the importance of remaining relevant, gave them tips on how they can remain relevant, the consequences of not remaining relevant and the important issue of the relationship between personal finance and relevance.
Olumoye urged the women to constantly educate themselves, create value for themselves, be up to date on trends and issues, interact and engage with others from other parts of the world and act while possessing attitude of gratitude.
To her, unless women did the above, they would become irrelevant by experiencing reduced opportunities, low self esteem, un-stimulated mental faculties, high risk of becoming obsolete and depression.
She also educated the women on how to understand how money works, financial literacy, how to grow wealth and also protect it, how to prepare for retirement and transfer of wealth.
On the issue of how to transfer wealth, Olumoye spoke on the importance of preparing for death and the need to write wills, which will guide inheritors on how to share the wealth they leave behind so that they would not plunge their children into crisis when they are gone.
She opened up a door for them on how to become globally connected to other women and groups across the globe through several platforms and how to share experiences that would help them increase their relevance in their families, places of work and social circles.
The number of questions at the end of her lecture was evident of how much her message penetrated the minds of the women who had gathered for the conference as many sought to understand how to write wills, make alterations to wills and the legitimate people to benefit from their estates.
Ibelema Greene, the second guest speaker, a legal practitioner with specialty as a teen coach among others, lectured the women on the topic, Upgrade: The Role of Learning, Unlearning, Relearning.
Green practical steps on how women can upgrade themselves in an ever changing world through learning new things, unlearning and relearning so that they can discover what they offer the world.
She stated that “life is a balance between holding on and letting go and knowing when to do either of the two” while pointing out that every woman thinks differently with unique skills and individual strengths.
One of the challenges confronting women in the area of upgrading, she mentioned is fear, which diminishes strength, wisdom and hinders people from trying new things hence so many women get stuck and feel out of place and imbalanced.
Greene explained that when people do not upgrade, “We live the same lives over and over again, there is no passion, no sense of purpose, no spark so we gradually get sucked in to the same routine, day in day out.”
According to her, women must be life long learners though unlearning is quite difficult especially in trying to drop bad habits that do not yield good results and enjoined participants to try to be themselves and stop seeking for others’ approval.
She gave a classic example of upgrade using the evolvement from the use of grinding stone to the use of mortar and pestle through the use of hand grinder, machine grinder using fuel, blender and the present food processor.
Greene stated that upgrading must be intentional for more relevance in order to leave the legacy of a fulfilled lives and become assets not to the society, but to oneself hence the need for flexibility, attitudinal changes and courage.
She told the participants that while it was important that they know who they really are, it was more important to outgrow who they have been to discover their true selves that have been buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions and inaccurate conclusions.
Green epitomised her lecture by stressing that “The woman you are becoming will cost you. It will cost you people, relationships, spaces and material things. Choose her over everything.”
In all, it was a worthwhile experience for the participants as they were not only filled with the sumptuous food, but with the practical guides on how they could function and remain relevant in the world today.